Both teams come in riding high. Reed brings a 10-game winning streak into the postseason affair while Bishop Gorman, the Sunset Region champion, has not been beaten all season.
“They are a big, athletic team. They’re very fast and very strong,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said of Bishop Gorman. “They have all the things you’d want. They’re a very good football team.”
The numbers back that up. Bishop Gorman (13-0) has outscored opponents 674-93 on the season. The Gaels have really only been challenged once all year, in a 38-28 regional semifinal win over Palo Verde two weeks ago. Their next closest margin of victory was 24 points and they did not have a league foe come within 31 points (Desert Oasis 42-11).
On the flip side, Reed (11-2) has outscored its foes by a 389-206 margin. Since Oct. 23, the Raiders have won just two of their five games by more than 13 points.
The disparity in numbers could be an indication of Reed playing a tougher schedule than of Gorman being that much more dominant. Either way, first-year Bishop Gorman coach Tony Sanchez did nothing but heap praise on Reed.
“They do a great job with their spread, but they do that to run the football,” Sanchez said. “Their whole thing really goes through their quarterback. He (Reed QB Tyler Pine) is a pretty dynamic kid. He does a good job of keeping you off balance.
“And then they do a quality job on defense too. They’re very comfortable in their 3-4 and they’ve got a bunch of big kids up front. I think it’s our job to make them tweak things and do some things differently to stop us.”
Like most successful high school teams, Gorman’s offense is predicated on the run. The Gaels have racked up 3,394 yards on the ground this fall. That dominant rushing attack has helped their freshman signal caller, Jarrett Solomon, complete 98 of 160 passes for 1,902 yards.
“Gorman is definitely a team that wants to establish the run,” Howren said. “They will use some play-action pass and they will drop back at times, but they’ve gotten here because of their run game.”
The Gaels boast a pair of 1,000 yard rushers. Shaquille Powell has torched defenses for 1,353 yards on the ground and Victor Belen has amassed 1,206 rushing yards.
“Our fronts are our strengths, offensively and defensively. We’ve only given up 93 points and only about five offensive touchdowns,” Sanchez said. “So defensively, we’ve done a great job really making people earn it. Our kids have done a great job up front, dominating on both sides of the ball.”
After seeing the numbers and watching Gorman on film, Howren echoed those sentiments.
“When you have a team that averages giving up only about seven points a game, they’ve got a combination of speed and size defensively,” the Raiders veteran coach said. “They have guys up front that do a great job at keeping the offensive line at the line of scrimmage and that allows linebackers to read and fill gaps.”
Reed is playing in its first state semifinal since 2004. Despite the big stage, Howren said his players and coaches are on a pretty even keel.
“It’s business as usual,” he said. “Our guys have come out and just had another great week of practice. The kids have put a string together of week after week getting after each other and capitalizing on each opportunity. We don’t need any extra motivation. The kids know what’s on the line and they’re practicing like it.”
Unlike a public Clark County school, the Bishop Gorman program did not caravan up in buses. The private Catholic school’s players and coaches flew up Friday morning and got on the practice field in the afternoon. Sanchez does not expect any setbacks from travel.
“We should get up to Reno at a decent time to practice,” Sanchez said in a Tuesday telephone interview. “I don’t expect travel to be much of a problem. We’ll practice at about the same time as Saturday’s kickoff and be focused on the task at hand.”